Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 24, 2017
Tonight, let us focus our attention on the most well-known Christmas passages in the Bible, Luke 2:1-7. If you did not bring a Bible with you, there should be one near you, and you will find Luke 2 on page 1018.
Also, if you do not have a Bible at home, we would encourage you to take one of ours. It is our gift to you this Christmas, and there is no greater gift that we could give you tonight then the living Word of God. Psalm 19:9-10 says, “the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” The Word of God is better that any present that is under your tree at home and it any food that is on your tables this Christmas season. So let us see what is so precious about God’s Word.
Real People, Real Places, Real Events
The one thing I love about God’s Word is that the authors provide historical markers. The Bible is not a bunch of fairy tales. Tonight we see in our text written by Luke the Physician, real people, real places, and real events. Caesar Augustus and Quirinius were actual historical people who lived 2000 years ago. Roman Historian Tacitus who lived in the first and second century mentions Quirinius in his writings titled, “The Annals.” Likewise, the Jewish historian Josephus who also lived during the first and second century writes about Quirinius in writings called the Antiquities. So these are real people listed in Luke 2.
Likewise, Syria, Galilee, Nazareth, and Bethlehem are real historical places. They are not in some galaxy far far away. They existed then and they exist today. You can jump on a plane and visit them today. Lastly, Luke describes a real event, the registration decreed by Caesar. This is what we would call a census, a systematic way to count people.
We are not told why there was a registration of all people, but most likely it was for the purpose of taxation; which we know to be a true reality in ancient times. A King always taxes his people. Caesar, the emperor of Rome, was no different. He needed to register ever person in his kingdom so that he could tax every person in his Kingdom.
So we can see, the Bible is not some made up fairy tale with mythical creatures and mythical places. The events of the Bible unfold in real life. Luke is a historian, providing facts to substantiate his testimony.
Descendants of King David
So let’s examine one of Luke’s facts. Look at verse 4. It says, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.” What is going on here?
Many of us know, Joseph is the step-dad of soon to be born baby Jesus. Joseph and Mary are both Jews and they are both descendants of King David. They had Davidic Royalty in their blood. Therefore, according to the rules of the registration, Joseph had to take pregnant Mary and travel from Nazareth to a little town known as Bethlehem. This would have been an 80 mile trip and could have taken 4-7 days depending how well Mary was feeling.
No matter how long it took them, they arrived right on time. Look at verse 6, “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.” “There” is Bethlehem. Jesus was not born on the side of the road. They made it to their destination, so that Jesus was born in a stable environment, forgive the pun.
The question is, “Was this a result of good luck?” Was it just a string of fortunate events that led to Jesus being born once they arrived? The answer to that question is a resounding no. This was not good luck, it was God’s providence. God is the one who ensured that his Son, Jesus would not be born alongside a road, but would be born on their arrival in the town of Bethlehem.
Now, it is one thing to make such a claim, but it is another thing to prove it. The evidence to support that this was God's providence is found in the book of Micah 5:2. If you will, please turn with me to that verse. It is found on page 926 in the Church Bibles. Before we read this text, I want everyone to understand that the book of Micah was written around 700 B.C. B.C. means before Christ. This is not a debatable fact. Everyone accepts that Micah was written long before Jesus was born. Now listen to what it says in Micah 5:2.
And what are we told about this king? First, we are told that this King will have the strength of God. Second, we are told that this King will also be a Shepherd. Third, that He will be a Shepherd over God's people. Fourth, that he will be known as the brother to God's people. Fifth, his rule will produce a security for God’s people and bring peace to them. Sixth, that this Shepherd King by known in Israel, and his name will be great to the ends of the earth. And lastly, this Shepherd King’s coming is from ancient days. What does that mean? It means from the beginning of time.
Name one person that fits this description. There have been billions of people who have come into existence since 700 B.C. and only one person can fill these shoes. Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, tonight we are a part the fulfillment of Micah 5. The birth of Jesus Christ is being celebrated to the ends of the earth. Cascade, IA is 6,286 miles from Bethlehem, yet we are magnifying the name of Jesus Christ tonight, just like hundreds of thousands of Churches all over the globe. Coincidence? Absolutely not.
So back to my original statement, the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was not good fortune, it was providence. Even though Caesar Augustus decreed that all people should be registered, it was ultimately God who decreed that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. This was always God's plan, even before Rome existed. As it says in Proverbs 21:1, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” God is sovereignly setting the stage for the birth of His Son.
No Room at the Inn
But now I want us to look at something that stands in stark contrast. God orchestrated that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, but look at verse 7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” Jesus is the Son of God. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is from ancient days, the ruler of the World, and there is no room for him at the inn? God moved the heart of Caesar, but couldn’t move the heart of the Inn Keeper? What is this all about?
I will tell you what it is all about. It is not that God couldn’t make room, it is that he chose not to make room, so as to expose a sad reality about the condition of man. Listen to how the Apostle John describes the coming of Jesus into the world in John 1:9, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”
Jesus is the second person of the eternal Tri-Une God. Everything that exists was created through Jesus, including all of humanity. And yes it is true that his name is great to the ends of the earth, but it is also simultaneously true that his name is insignificant to the ends of the earth. This planet has over 7 billion people, 5 billion reject Jesus as their King, and of the 2 billion that claim to follow Jesus a number of them are hypocrites. Jesus is not their ruler, he is not their Shepherd, they are not magnifying his name in any way shape or form.
Just like the people of Bethlehem, the world has made no room for the Son of God in their hearts. Instead, we push Jesus off to the stables of our lives. Out of sight, and out of mind. And why is this? One word. Sin.
Because of sin, we reject the things of God. Instead of submitting to a Holy and Righteous God, we rebel and live our own way, and not God’s way. Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Why? Because we are by nature sinful and we live in darkness, oblivious to our need to turn and believe in Jesus.
This is how the apostle Paul states it in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
There are many people in this world tonight who are sitting in Churches who are sitting in spiritual darkness. The only reason they are in Church this Christmas Eve is because of cultural tradition. They can't wait for Church to be over so that they could get back to their own lives. These people are just like the Inn Keeper, not willing to make room for the Ruler o the World. Unwilling to receive Jesus into their heart.
Some people may respond to this by saying so what? What's the big deal if I don't turn to Jesus as my Shepherd King? Listen to what it says in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
There are only two options in this world, to believe in Jesus and submit to him, or to run your life your own way. There is not a third option. Believing in Jesus leads to the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Living your own way leads to the wrath of God.
And why is this true? It is true because you and I are sinners. And God is holy. We have broken God's law and we deserve to be punished for our sins. The punishment for sinning against a perfectly holy and righteous God is Hell. Hell is a place that Jesus describes as eternal torment. This is every man's destiny. And let me tell you something, coming to a Christmas eve service doesn't fix that problem. The only way to fix your sin problem is by placing your trust in Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of your sins on the cross. If you don't trust in Jesus, then you have no hope, and there is absolutely no reason to celebrate Christmas, for the wrath of God remains on you.
The reality is that Christmas is simultaneously a time to rejoice and a time to weep. We rejoice if we are under the refuge of Christ's wing, but we weep for those who go through religious motions but who have never placed their trust in Jesus.
As we close tonight with the wonderful song silent night we will be lighting our candles. This light represents Jesus. Jesus is the true light. As it comes to you and your candle is lit, I want you to examine your heart and ask, “Have I received the light of Christ?” If you answer no, then I would encourage you to cry out to God, turn from your sins, and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
For as it says in John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”